American in Spain

How to use AdBlock to bypass The Onion's paywall

October 7, 2011
The Onion Pay Wall

I've been a fan of The Onion for a long time, so I was quite distressed to see that they've put up a paywall. Now, when you view more than five articles in thirty days, it pops up a box asking you to pay $2.95/month or $29.95/year for full access. My personal philosophy is that content should be monetized by advertisements and the minority of people that choose to use technology to block those ads just have to be accepted as a loss. With a little HTML investigation, I figured out which elements need to be hidden from the page to disable their fairly weak attempt at securing their content behind a paywall. If you have the popular AdBlock plugin (Firefox, Safari, Chrome) installed, you need only add two rules to your AdBlock settings. The Onion Pay Wall

To allow their content to be crawlable by search engines, they display it all, but then put up a translucent element on top of the entire page to block navigation and easy human consumption. If they really wanted to get serious about the paywall, they could do so pretty easily, but I guess they assume this tactic will stop most people.

AdBlock rules to disable The Onion's paywall[id="gregbox-wrap"][id="gregbox-overlay"]

International Only

At the moment, this paywall is only in effect for international visitors. A statement from The Onion:

We have found that most of our readers share articles with each other, and flow in and out of our site, and we do not want to limit that behavior.

There is also a set of avid readers, and we have chosen an article limit which allows that fan base to support us directly. On other platforms like the Kindle and Nook, we have had great support from our fans and other interested readers, which has given us confidence for this move.

We are testing a meter internationally as readers in those markets are already used to paying directly for some (other) content, particularly in the UK where we have many readers.